Book review Essay Example

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4Book review

Book review on Chinese traditional art of poetry and fiction


According to Stephen Owen lyric poetry has not played a direct role in western civilization as compared to other forms of literature. Unlike narrative and dramatic forms, lyric is quite unpopular, despised and largely ignored by many. However, among the Chinese, poetry remains the most common means of communication that makes them understand their present as well as their past traditions. Chinese lyric poem is defined as articulating intensely what is in the mind making it the most appropriate way to speak to all human beings under all situations. In addition to this, lyric poetry was addressed to an individual or a specific group in which the poet would like to know unlike the western poetry where poems were directed towards an audience.

Owen’s findings on the origin of Chinese poetry showed that it is characterized by reverence for spirits and very little of terror. Beginning of Chinese poetry was the book of songs which initiated the culture rather than epic and drama. T’ao, the first Chinese to use poetry as a tool for articulating apolitical dimensions of personality, utilized poetry as a means to justify his choice and that of others. In T’ang, writing of poems was inspired more by day to day activities rather than literally. Like western poems, some were on general topics although majority of the poets preferred to concentrate on occasional poems (Owen 2008).

Paul Ropp tries to compare the reading of Chinese fiction with that of western fiction. Fiction in both settings has been used to provide entertainment and instruct the audience as well. It has developed from shorter to longer works and has become more sophisticated and self-conscious in both China and the west. Despite these differences, Ropp brings out several differences. Moral emphasis has been more pronounced in China than in the west. Emphasis on the group rather than the individual is evident in Chinese fiction. Their storytellers were more interested in plot and incident than in psychological description which was the focus of the west. Chinese fiction lacks coherence in plot development which is done to show life’s nature of recurrent cycles and interrelated cycles as opposed to western-style unilinear plot. Ropp gives various examples of most popular Chinese short stories that are the vernacular tales for instance hua-pen, water margin, Chin P’ing Mei among others (Ropp 1990).

Evidently, the achievements of Chinese novelists are by far more striking than their shortcomings which have earned them a worldwide recognition in terms of accessibility, enjoyability, illumination and inspiration. Chinese poetry can be considered as part of life, giving words to complex feelings. Besides being great figures, Chinese poets have been approved as some of the most memorable civilization figures in the history of china. Drawing a conclusion from the above arguments, Chinese art of poetry is incredibly superior to most countries in the world including the most civilized regions in the west. This can be attributed to Chinese conservative nature which enables them to borrow ancient ideas and incorporating them into present day’s art of writing (Chan 2009).


Owen, S. 2008. Traditional Chinese Poetry and Poetics: Omen of the World. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, VOL. 65, No. 2.

Ropp, P.1990. Heritage of China. London: University of California press.

Chan, M. 2009. Traditional Chinese Culture. Columbus: Ohio state university press.